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Theater Review: “Beautiful”

“Beautiful” plays through October 7, 2018 at San Diego Civic Theatre, 3rd and B Streets, downtown.
Photo credit:
Broadway San Diego

There’s something about a good jukebox musical that makes you want to get up and dance – or at least sing-along. “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” is no exception, and though neither dancing nor singing along is encouraged by Civic Theatre management, where the show plays through Oct. 7, it’s tough to resist.

You’ll likely to at least find your toes tapping and your psyche pulling for the singer/songwriter subject of the show to get what she really wants out of life.

Sarah Rockel plays Carole from Brooklyn teenager to superstar as just a likable girl with a talent for songwriting, willing to buck her nice Jewish mother Genie’s opinion that “girls don’t write music, they teach it” to go to the Times Square “music factory” and audition a song she’s written for music producer Don Kirshner (James Clow).

The year is 1958, the song “It Might As Well Rain Until September.” Kirshner says he’ll take the song and encourages Carole to write more.

Kirshner will get many more hits from Carole, especially after she starts working with lyricist/budding playwright Gerry Goffin (Dylan S. Wallach). They will marry, she will get pregnant, and as songwriters, they’re on their way.

At the music factory, they’ll meet another pair: clever lyricist Cynthia Weil (Alison Whitehurst) and composer Barry Mann (Jacob Heimer). The two couples become friends and vie for number 1 hits – a boon for the audience, which is treated to a wide variety of pop and early rock hits from the late 1950s to the 1970s. Between them, they turn out hits including “Up on the Roof,” “On Broadway,” “The Locomotion” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”

In addition, you’ll be entertained by some other acts of the time: the Drifters, the Shirelles, and the Righteous Brothers, along with Janelle Woods (McKynleeigh Alden Abraham) and Neil Sedaka (John Michael Dias).

But Carole is in for some pain at the hands of Gerry, who gets bored with family life and wants more, shall we say, variety. This will eventually end in their breakup. Carole moves to Los Angeles, where she works solo and records her megahit album “Tapestry.”

A musician can’t do much better than a gig at Carnegie Hall, and you’ll see Carole preparing for that in the last scene.

“Beautiful” is just that in many ways. The story is mostly positive, the songs are standards, the singing actors outstanding and the tech work beyond reproach.

Derek McLane’s set design is a movable wonder, set pieces sliding in and out with lights (by Peter Kaczorowki) to match. Alejo Vietti’s costumes are lovely and appropriate to the period, Josh Prince’s choreography is spot-on, the 12-member orchestra excellent.

If you’re in the market for a good, solid jukebox musical, get your ticket now for “Beautiful.” It closes on Sunday.

The details

“Beautiful” plays through October 7, 2018 at San Diego Civic Theatre, 3rd and B Streets, downtown.

Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 1 and 6:30 pm

Tickets: (619) 570-1100 or broadwaysd.com